School bullying is an issue that we are all concerned about, and it’s an issue that gets a lot of media attention. In the U.S., the majority of states have some kind of anti-bullying laws in place, and across the country school districts have spent a lot of money paying for anti-bullying programs to address the problem.
GSAFE understands that bullying occurs on a spectrum of violence and as part of a broader, culturally-specific context. Bullying is so much more than just “kids being mean to one another,” and in order to effectively address bullying, we believe programs must be:
- Proactive – Programs that start early and teach social and emotion skills are better than those that try to address bullying that is already happening;
- Multi-faceted – Programs must recognize that bullying is not an isolated incident and there are larger personal, cultural, and environmental issues that contribute to and support bullying; and
- Specific – Programs must discuss issues of bias, particularly around homophobic and gender-based bullying, race, and sexual harassment.
In 2008, through a partnership with Wisconsin Public Television, the Madison Metropolitan School District, and the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, GSAFE developed the “Bystanders into Allies” curriculum which aimed to teach middle school students concrete skills for addressing and challenging bullying in their schools.
Research has shown that strategies to foster positive bystander responses in bullying situations – such as direct intervention, helping the victim, and talking to adults – may be more effective with younger students. Passive responses (where bystanders do nothing) and aggressive responses (where bystanders get back at the bully) increase with age. This makes it even more critical that anti-bullying education begins at younger ages, such as in middle or event elementary school.
To read more about the “Bystanders into Allies” program and for more resources on addressing bullying, click here.